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Jupiter Ascending

Since the Matrix trilogy ended, the Wachowski directorial siblings have struck out.  Subsequent outings ‘Speed Racer’ and ‘Cloud Atlas’ became costly flops. Their latest ‘Jupiter Ascending’ will do nothing to arrest their box office curse.  Although displaying creative imagination for which they are renowned, the sci-fi epic quickly falls apart under the weight of endless exposition.

 

Jupiter Jones (Mila Kunis) ekes out a living as a cleaner.  She meets Caine (Channing Tatum), a warrior tasked to protect her.  Whilst explaining Jupiter’s destiny, Caine reveals she is an evolved alien of royal nobility and is in line to be earth’s ruler.  Aggrieved is her brother Balem (Eddie Redmayne) who wants Earth for himself.  Determined to destroy any interlopers, Balem schemes to eradicate Jupiter from existence, with only Caine’s lethal skills ready to protect her.

 

‘Jupiter Ascending’ is a poorly written and acted film on a grand scale.  Whilst the action scenes and CGI are incredible, none of it matters due to a bad script.  Chief amongst its flaws is the failure to successfully establish its alien universe.  Characters appear without explanation of their function to the story with Jupiter’s role in the cosmic puzzle never clearly defined.  It doesn’t help that her character is reduced to a helpless screamer making her claims to nobility laughable.

 

Kunis’ performance as Jupiter is as equally appalling as her co-stars.  Saddled with an unfocussed story, the actors follow suit by never fully realising their character’s potential.  The Wachowski’s appear so enraptured with the dazzling CGI they forgot about telling a gripping tale.  It all looks very pretty with plenty of gadgets confirming ideas for a toy-line must have passed the Wachowski’s gaze. 

 

A disappointing effort ‘Jupiter Ascending’ quickly goes nowhere.  The Wachowski’s can and have done better.  Hopefully they can re-discover their story-telling mojo matching their visual flair for space-age pyrotechnics.

 

Rating out of 10:  3

Kingsman: The Secret Service

When James Bond first turned towards the gun-barrel in 1962’s ‘Dr.No’, a cinematic industry was born. Spawning mega-fortunes for most concerned, the franchise has lasted decades. No surprise many have tried to emulate its’ success. Some have succeeded, others have failed. Based on a comic book ‘Kingsman: The Secret Service’ liberally takes cue from 007’s adventures. Smart, clever and resolutely stylish, it is a beguiling wink to Ian Fleming’s enduring creation.

Harry Hart (Colin Firth) is part of a top secret spy organisation. Tasked with recruiting suitable candidates, he meets Gary (Taron Egerton). A tough street kid, Gary’s roughish demeanour hides a calculating mind. Seeing much potential, Harry begins training his new apprentice. This can’t come soon enough when evil billionaire Richmond Valentine (Samuel L Jackson) threatens the world order. Quickly learning the ways of espionage, Gary sets his sights in becoming an agent worthy of valour.

Having directed ‘Kick-Ass’ and ‘X-Men: First Class’, Matthew Vaughn is an expert at comic-book movies. ‘Kingsman: The Secret Service’ cements his fine reputation. Fully embracing the outlandish story’s possibilities, he revels in the absurd situations and crisply written dialogue. There’s a confident swagger about the script without being too clever. He is ably assisted by the actors who throw themselves into this outrageous scenario with gusto.

‘Kingsman: The Secret Service’ doesn’t take itself too seriously and nor does it attempt to be a ‘worthy film’. It is a straight-up thrill ride of brilliantly staged action scenes with easily identifiable characters. The cinematography is a major plus with each scene shown in broad comic-book strokes full of colourful vitality. Fans of Bond, Bourne and other spies will receive a kick out of the small nods to other thriller films while it delivers its own brand of secret agent hijinks.

After a slew of similar genre films not cutting the mustard, ‘Kingsman: The Secret Service’ delivers the goods. Fun, vibrant and exciting, hopefully others will take a leaf out of its book by remembering to add some lush colours to the usual formula.

Rating out of 10: 9